Appointments of black personalities to key positions, conciliatory speeches, “normal diplomacy” … The Biden administration wants to reconnect with Africa, ignored by Trump.
This is undoubtedly not a Herculean task: given the contemptuous indifference shown by Donald Trump towards the continent – where he has never been -, the new administration has a favorable a priori in Africa, especially since it has already marked a clear change of intentions and ambitions.
In a speech addressed to delegates to the 34th African Union summit and broadcast on February 7, Joe Biden indicated the general line of his foreign policy: “America is back. Diplomacy is once again at the center of our foreign policy. [Nous allons nous employer] to renew our role in international institutions and to regain our credibility and moral authority. “
“Mutual support and respect”
He then focused his remarks on Africa, asserting that the United States stood by his side, “partners in solidarity, support and mutual respect.” We believe in African nations ”. He went on to speak of a “shared vision for a better future”, and touching on topics relating to the economy, security and human rights for “women and girls, LGBTQI people, people in disabled, people of any ethnic origin, religion or culture ”.
The US president also mentioned current emergencies: the pandemic and global warming, with the prospect of adequate funding for vaccine factories and the Green Climate Fund. He finally announced that the visa restrictions for refugees enacted by Trump would be repealed, and that racial equality and the fight against white supremacism were priorities of his administration. Obviously, Biden was aiming to insist on a clean break with the Trump administration and, by consequence, to underline the continuities with Barack Obama, of which he was the vice-president.
African Americans promoted
To know a little more, we must turn to a set of quite significant appointments made by the new president. Several African Americans have been promoted. Enoh Ebong thus became Acting Director of the United States Agency for Trade and Development (USTDA). This woman of Nigerian origin has a solid experience in the said agency, where she worked from 2004 to 2019.
Mahmoud Bah, of Guinean origin, is also distinguished: he becomes the interim manager of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The MCC, established by the United States Congress in 2004, is a development program designed to provide grants to countries that have demonstrated their commitment to promoting good management practices and economic reform. Mahmoud Bah also has a solid experience of ten years within the organization to which he was appointed, including as head of the MCC in Côte d’Ivoire for three years.
The current US government is by far the most diverse in the country’s history. Half of its members are not white
To these appointments are added others, on the African-American side, and at the highest level. They also mark a symbolic and practical break with the Trump era. Although the vice-president is not African-American (her parents were of Caribbean and Indian descent), Kamala Harris asserts herself as a black woman, in whom many black women and men identify with. The new Defense Minister, four-star General Lloyd Austin, has also taken office, a first for a black man.
Marcia Fudge, Ohio Representative to Congress, is now Minister of Housing and Urban Development, while Susan Rice, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, becomes Director of the Domestic Policy Council ). For her part, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a seasoned diplomat who was notably in charge of African affairs between 2013 and 2017, before being dismissed from her post by Trump, now represents her country at the UN.
If we add to these personalities those from the Hispanic world, and even Native Americans, the current American government is by far the most diverse in the history of the country (half of its members are not white). Here is what is significant, and which was greeted by the anti-racist associations of the country: the representation, the incarnation of a position, that counts in politics!
Environment and health
It remains, of course, to measure the effects of these appointments on the policies implemented. On the African side, the general trend is that of a return to normal diplomacy, marked by respectful relations between the United States and the continent.
The main inflection with respect to the Obama administration seems to be on the side of an accentuation of the environmental investment, on which Biden insisted so much during his campaign, and of the medical priority, since Africa is not not spared by the Covid-19, even if the pandemic did not have consequences comparable to those that Europe or the United States are experiencing.
On other subjects, Washington will combine, in a fairly classic way, its own interests, in particular economic ones, with strategic concerns (leaving the leading military role to France in the Sahel, while ensuring logistical support) and humanitarian concerns. But historians are well aware that what seems predictable will be thwarted by the events themselves, and the ability of African and American officials to respond to them!